Saint-Rémy’s powers of seduction may be irresistible in all seasons. But summer attracts admirers like no other. Throughout the hot months, auto license plates indicate visitors hail from countless European countries and the UK, not to mention many of the far-flung French overseas territories to include Guadeloupe (#971, Caribbean Sea) and La Réunion (#974, Indian Ocean).
So for locals who feel a bit overwhelmed by the sudden over-population, it’s a good time to fly the coop for some breathing room, if only for a few days. And that’s what we did. Off we dashed to quiet, charismatic Mèze on the Étang de Thau, a large lake adjacent to the Med.
Knowing full well that we were tempting fate to join the hoards on the highway, we expected a bouchon (traffic jam) or two. So what was normally a two-hour drive became three. But, we made lunch!
Our destination restaurant outside the oyster capital of Bouzigues (near Mèze) sits right on the lagoon with Sète in the distance. Sadly, our first choice for our seaside seafood repast, Les Desmoiselles Dupuy, was full, but at a neighboring enterprise, Benvenu’ Thau, we enjoyed a satisfying assortment of grilled huitres (oysters) four, ways—two each sprinkled with Parmesan, leek, hazelnuts and parsley, respectively. And, we also devoured the natural type. By the way, I’ll go out on a limb here and declare, “Never say never when it comes to raw oysters.” Never-ever was I a fan of these bivalve mollusks but the Bouzigues variety splashed with a magical vinaigrette with minced shallots made me a believer!
Before checking in to our B&B, we backtracked a bit to delightful Balaruc-les-Bains to birdwatch along the boardwalk. Only some very common Yellow-legged Gulls made an appearance, but it was lovely to press our binoculars into service while strolling in such a serene setting. We also made a run by a favorite home décor store called Proventes Meubles located in a bleak industrial zone. Its inauspicious location belies the fact that it’s a charming store with gems galore. Much like discovering beautiful birds by a dismal water treatment facility, finding a treasure here is especially rewarding.
Next stop, splendid Mèze Maison overlooking the town’s chateau and pretty gardens. There are four rooms to pick from—all stylishly decorated and each a bit different. I love the one now called Ellington with the sleek, free-standing oval tub and Italian shower. On another visit, maybe we’ll try out the one with a terrace, big lagoon views, and outdoor shower. British owners Rob and Jason with their mischievous grins always provide an exceedingly warm welcome and lots of laughs, typically accompanied by a verre du bon vin!
Though the normally calm, authentic village was more active than in off-season, there was plenty of room to roam. For the next couple of days we rode our foldable bikes all around town, witnessed a nautical jousting event at the leisure port, strolled the vibrant Sunday market, and birded at a marshy area outside of town where we spotted Grey Herons, Stilts, and Little Egrets—to name a few feathered friends. And we enjoyed multiple meals with views of the water.
Plus, I fit in a couple of sessions of much needed exercise by sea-walking known here as longe-côte. The lagoon was so warm, I just drifted right in—bliss!
Wherever this summer finds you, stay safe, well, and hopeful.
The intense heat subsided last week, and we even got some much-needed rain!